I’ll just go ahead and spoil this post by saying that I haven’t actually negotiated a corn free tattoo. I’m sure it’s possible to do, I just haven’t done it. This question just comes up a lot so I wanted to cover what we *do* know about corn allergy concerns with tattooing.
Tattoo ink consists of a pigment that imparts the color, and a carrier or base for the pigment to make it flow freely so that it can be injected into your dermis with the tattoo gun. The carrier for the ink is typically ethanol or glycerin. Ethanol can be from a number of things but is usually corn. Glycerin is usually from corn, soy, or palm. The pigments could be corny but usually are mineral based. It will be harder to find out about what is in the pigments than what the carrier is. You will need to get ahold of your artists ink supplier and get THEM to talk with you about the carrier, don’t expect your artist to know what’s in them.
I have heard that some tattoo inks use witch hazel for the carrier, however not only is witch hazel often actually witch hazel extract in a corn ethanol base, but I have heard that witch hazel tattoos age poorly. I have also heard that some artists mix their own inks from a dry pigment base, but I would be concerned with getting the correct concentration each time. But I’m not an expert: that level of detail is where you need work directly with your artist. You’ll need to find someone that has a proven track record of good art that ages well, and who is willing to work with you to keep you safe.
In addition to the ink itself you may need to be concerned about:
- antiseptic used on skin before the work
- plastic tubing (that ink runs through)
- ointment applied after the tattoo
- plastic ink cups
- plastic soap bottle and soap inside it
- plastic wrap or other sheeting that may be used to cover surfaces
- paper towels (he uses to wipe away excess ink as he works)
- sanitizer used to wash any surfaces
- the artist’s hand soap
- the artist’s personal care products such as deodorant or aftershave
- Any bandage or wrap used to cover the tattoo after work is finished.
- Adhesive used to attach the bandage, wrap, or cover.
A tattoo shop may be limited in what they can and can’t use depending on state and local regulations, so it’s important to choose an artist that will communicate clearly with you and takes your concerns seriously. Never get a tattoo from someone you don’t trust and who doesn’t treat you kindly. That’s just generally good advice even if you don’t have any allergies.
I haven’t yet found a corn free tattoo ink. I have many tattoos but I got them all before becoming very sensitive to corn and have been afraid to get more work since then. I really haven’t been trying hard though: finding safe food has been a higher priority so I haven’t contacted any ink manufacturers yet. If you find a corn free ink please let me know, and if you happen to find one that is free of soy and palm as well that would be just dandy.